Monday, August 31, 2015

Having Faith in the Public Classroom

My friend, William Chamberlain's take on the same topic - here

I am a public school teacher.

I am a follower of Jesus. 

These two aren't supposed to mix. I'm not supposed to talk about my faith with students. What I can do is show my faith through my actions, hoping that students, parents, and fellow teachers question those actions and wonder what makes me different. 

Disclaimer: I can be very un-Christlike. I'm not perfect. I raise my voice, yell, and get upset. I don't forgive all the time. I probably don't see as much potential as I should. I don't show as much love as I need to. I'm harsh at times. I'm spiteful at times. I show favoritism to the students who do their work and are nicer. I'm not nice all the time. I don't treat everyone how I want to be treated. I have hurt others with my words. I'm not perfect and don't pretend that I am. Sometimes, I think that when others hear that you are a Christian, they give you a "holier-than-thou" vibe and then chastise you because you screw up. I'm here to tell you that I screw up a lot. I struggle with my faith on a daily basis. I also get an audience of 135 students every day to help me in my faith - even if they don't know they are helping me. Just know that because I say that I am a follower of Jesus, doesn't mean I am perfect. I am still human.

My faith is personal to me. I'm not one to share it outwardly. I hold a lot of things in. I may seem outwardly jubilant and very outgoing at times, but at my core, I am very introverted.

I teach social studies. I'll teach about all the major religions and also Greek and Roman Mythology. I don't force feed my religion on any student.  

I struggled with writing this post because it's hard to write about something that you're not supposed to talk about, so I decided to leave it to some who are mightier with the pen. (Although, I think just reading lyrics is very spiritual.) These are songs that mean something to me. They help me to relate to the classroom. Also, my favorite bands are Crowder and Rend Collective.

When I'm Feeling Like I Need a Breakthrough -

When I Need Reminded That It's Not About Me And How I Don't Need Inheritance Or Extra Stuff Because I'm A Teacher.

When I'm Sad Because One of My Students is Going Through Something Rough.

When I Forget My Purpose and Need A Slap In The Face Because My Actions Don't Reflect Jesus.

When My Flesh Fails (It Does A Lot.)

When I'm At A Loss For Words And Need A Shoulder To Cry On Because Things Are Out Of My Control.

When You Decide To Follow God's Calling into Education.

What I Picture My Classroom As. A Family. Togetherness and Celebration. Choosing Joy. There When You're Down and Celebrating When You're Up. A Real Community.

I found this earlier this week and I thought that it spoke exactly to what I wanted to say and sums this post up perfectly. No matter what your job is, you can take out football and put yours there.

Keep building the kingdom. It is here. It is near. Show others.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

About One Month

This post was inspired by a conversation I had with William Chamberlain. 

1 hour a day.

5 days a week.

36 weeks.

180 total hours.

180 hours is 4 1/2 "regular" work weeks.

Basically, one month of work.

That's how much time a typical teacher will spend with a student during one school year.

When you look at things from a time point of view, it makes you think about being intentional. What are you putting the most time into? What types of things can be cut to "trim the fat?" Are you teaching to learn or teaching them content? Are students creating from the content under your guidance or are they simply consuming content?

This then leads to the question of... Maybe what teachers teach isn't all that important anyway? Maybe what happens inside the walls of a school really isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things?

Over fall break last year, I made a padlet "wall" and just let students put whatever they learned over break on there so that others could see what they were learning. Here were some of my students' responses. (I'd post the actual padlet, but it has the names of the students. Padlet has a nice "download to Excel" file that works well.)

  • Did you know that the more shrimp flamingos eat the more pinker they get? I learned this today at the zoo. The dye in the shrimp that makes it pink makes the flamingos pink.
  • Today, I was taught how to use our sitting lawn mower to mow our lawn.  It is very fun. I learned there are many steps to doing this. I also learned you have got to take caution while doing this and you can't rush through the job. 
  • Today my grandpa MADE me pick up walnuts today. Good news is that I didn't stain my fingers! I wore gloves, so no stained fingers for me!
  • Over Break, I learned that research shows that laziness is just a natural part of being a teen. It does not, however, reflect  bad behavior! 
  • I went shopping with my step-dad for my family. I learned to never go with him again! (It was super scary and I don't wanna do it again!!!)
  • i learned that ring tailed lemurs are not active at all when its cold outside :]
  • First, put 1 finger on the edge, then put the rest of your fingers under it. Put your thumb on top, twist your body and release. 
  • From the zoo trip today, I learned that orangutans have cultures as well. Their mothers teachr them a lot of their life skills. I also learned a really interesting fact about how two groups of orangutans live on opposite sides of a large river. On one side the orangutans have learned how to eat a poisonous fruit without getting stung and passed it on to their offspring. The other group on the other side of the river has never learned this so they don't eat the fruit. 
  • I learned on Saturday and Sunday that playing in a travel softball tourney is a lot harder than a regular season tourney. So intense!
  • I learned that on a lowercase i the dot is called a tittle!
  • I learned how to not get annoyed at commercials. All you have to do is 1 mute the TV then mimic what you think there saying then when the show goes back on all you have to do is turn the sound back on.
  • I learned that you have to get all the dirt of potatoes in order not to get sick when you eat the skin.I had to wash 10 of them! Plus i forgot to turn on music but i started making music with the dishes around me.:)
  • Only 22 countries have never been invaded by Great Britain!
  • I learned that Winter the dolphin only wears her prostatic tail for therapy and when she relaxes she sort of floats on her side.
  • I went to the beach on Thursday and learned that catfish live in the ocean and when I had caught it almost horned the people that took it off! Now I wish I was still in Florida's weather was warm.
  • I learned how to swim with manatees and I even got to pet one calf(baby manatee).Sometimes it takes 5 minutes to find one and sometimes it takes 3 hours.
  • I learned how to babysit my little  brother.Babys need love and care and they need to know that someone is going to be there with them every step of the way.Even though they they cause trouble you can,t stay mad at them they don,t know any better.
  • I learned how to hook up a PS3 to our T.V. My sister came over for a couple of days so she brought their PS3. It is really easy and fast to hook up.
  • I went to Dauphin Island over fall break. There were many dead jellyfish washing up on the shore. I learned the hard way that when they are dead they still sting. This happened when I got my fingers stung by a dead jellyfishes tentacle! the jellyfish looked like the picture below...
  • Today, October 20, I had what is called a tonsilectemy. Basically they removed my tonsils that were in the back of my throat. The key was to stay calm and relax. They put you to sleep and when you wake up, it is all done! A funny thing about my surgery was they give you a certain type of medication that makes you kinda loopy. Well according to my mom, I told her that I was seeing fireworks exploding in my face! 
  • I crossed the mississippi headwaters in Itasca state park, Minnesota.
  • During Fall Break Laney and I went to the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg. In the aquarium there was a section where you could touch the moon jellies. On the top of the moon jelly there are four circles. To touch it without getting stung you touch it right in between the four circles.
  • Which will cool you down more ice cream, hot cup of tea, room temperature cup of water, or ice-cold sports drink (Gatorade)?  The correct answer is actually a hot cup of tea because the hot cup of tea makes you sweat that makes you cool down. I learned this after watching a show called The Hungry Games on Food Network. This show proves to people that when eating food it is just all up in your head. If you were to have ice cream the ice cream would make your vessels constrict which makes you hot. It may sound backwards but, it is true.
  • Over fall break I went to Disney World and while I was there I learned that the Carousel of Progress was taken to the World's Fair by Walt Disney. It became a smashing hit so, he brought it to Walt Disney World. It is in Tomorrowland of Magic Kingdom. The  Carousel of Progress is a show that shows through the 20th century to see technology improving through the years.
  • Jonny my brother and me went to the Elementary and played at the basketball goals it was fun but at the end I started to just shoot threes and I kept making them and now i now  when and where I release the ball for a 3 pointer. 
  • Over my fall break I got a huge gash in my tire of my car. This is how to  put air in it and drive on it long enough to get it fixed. First you need to pull over somewhere close to you. Then you need someone to get you 2 cans of fix flat from the gas station. Next you put in in the air hole and when you get done with both cans you put air in it. Then after that you drive it to the tire place where you got your car from and got it replaced.
  • I learned a better serving form at volleyball practice. I also learned a better way to practice spiking a volleyball. 
  • I learned that in Disney movies there are hidden characters. My mom told me this and I had no idea. Then I looked at it on the Internet. Here is a picture of Rapunzel and Flynn in Frozen when Anna is singing "For the First Time in Forever"
  • Me and Bobby went to the zoo and we learned that you should never Throw leaves and hiss at the Male lion that is sleeping because the lion will try to attack you and it kind of scares you at first.
  • Prussia was once a German kingdom. But, Prussia today is now part of Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
  • I learned that leaves change colors because the chlorophyll in them breaks down. So the green disappears. Causing the leaves to turn yellow red and orange!
  • Jeg lærte å snakke mer norsk. Hallo, jeg er Kaya. Hvordan har du det? Jeg er god.(I learned to speak more Norwegian. Hello, I am Kaya. How are you? I am good
  • There are 196 countries in the world. Though Taiwan is not considered a country to many. There are about 6,500 languages in the world. But, about 2,000 of them only have fewer than 1,000 speakers.
  • I learned that there are more chickens in the world than there are people! (I'm sad that my kind is outnumbered by ugly fluff balls )
  • Canadians buy their milk in bags. Why? If you buy milk in a plastic jug in Ontario, there is a 25 cents depost fee. It also helps keep all those plastic jugs out of landfills.
  • I learned that the Halmation Beach Flex Brew coffee maker is flammable. My dad told me this after my mom bought it for my grandma, luckly we didn't open it so we can return it.  
  • Going to watch my dad race I learned that the reason he was not getting traction was because he made so much tork with small tires he was spinning.
  • Over fall break I learned that some Disney movies tie in together, the storm that Anna and Elsas parents die in, is the one in Ariel. Flinn
  • I went to work with my dad and I learned how to be an adult for one day
  • I learned to through a frisbee more accurate. 
  • Visiting the Zoo I learned that the Orangutan foot is a lot like their hands. That's how how they can swing vine to vine so well. My favorite was Rocky!, 
  • Over fall break I learned that even though you don't think it will be easy to get a sickness called hand feet and mouth from your one year Old sister it doesn't mean  you won't so I really learned to stay away from sick 
  • I have learned how to buy a good car for a cheep price thanks to my uncle.
  • I learned that Toledo is the 6th biggest city in Ohio
  • I learned a magic trick with a bowl of water some pepper and a dab of soap.
  • I learned how to not get hurt in football  I also learned that school is going to be awesome because the chromebooks.
I intentionally put all of them here. I didn't edit them (except change names). I wanted you to all see how much they do and how much difference there are in all of them. As you can see, my students were active learners. It was a lot of self-selected learning as well. Nothing from a textbook.

No teacher told them what to do, how to do it, or what project to do. There wasn't a rubric. No grading. No checks for understanding. 

I don't think people view learning as learning outside of school. Maybe they think of it as simply, life? I'm not sure. Each Monday, when students come in, I have them do a 3-Word-Weekend-Update. It lets them share about their experiences and also not take up the entire period. I sometimes add, "and one thing you learned." Students seem to struggle with this because they don't view life as a learning opportunity. After some cajoling and helpful guidance, students start to see that learning does happen outside of the school walls.

Instead of "What did you learn at school, today?" we have to shift our focus to, "What did you learn today?" The topics can go so much deeper and thoughtful than what they learned in social studies or reading. When we're sitting around the dinner table (does anyone do that anymore?) we need to talk about what we learned about life. Instead of a daily journal that tells what you did, how about one that talks about what you learned? Instead of talking about what you learned at school, how about, "What did you learn at school today that can be applied to life outside the classroom?" Instead of focusing on subjects in school, how about focusing on characteristics of good (or perceived good) students and how they attack their school work? Instead of asking what problems you have to do in math, how about, "What are some things you learned from others today?"

I've written on homework before, but I also know that students learn a lot outside of the school walls as well. There are a lot of people and experiences that go into a child's "schooling." From the math I did at the beginning of this post, I only meet with students for about a month over an entire year. That's not a lot of time. Look at how much is possible to learn outside of school. It's endless. It's different for each person as well.

There is a lot of learning going on outside of my classroom. Teachers are just a piece of the puzzle. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Twitter As A Learning Tool and Learning Space: Through the Eyes of a QB

The following is my thoughts on the evolution of twitter as a learning tool and learning space. Because of my love of sports, I combined my thoughts with the quarterback position. Each QB "stage" is a step that I think educators go through. Each rank isn't necessary to go through. You might skip around. Go up. Go down. It doesn't matter. Some stop at holding the clipboard. Some make it to the Hall of Fame. Some get off of twitter completely. But really, we're all searching for more. A deeper, more relational, more.

6th Round Draft Pick - You're an egg. Nothing exciting.

3rd String QB - You do a lot of observing. Take it in. You are a glorified clipboard holder. You are overwhelmed with everything. Trying to find your team, but all you're doing is taking notes watching everyone else participating. Maybe you post about what you're eating, or what you did in your classroom today. You're following a lot of your personal friends and some of the more famous educators on twitter because they have a lot of followers on twitter and they must be tweeting things that are important, right?

Backup QB- You finally get a little action. You play in the preseason and occasionally if your team is either pounding a team or your team is getting pounded. You may put some things out there, and you're contributing to the twittersphere. You've found your role a little bit and how you can use twitter to benefit yourself. You interact and connect with others. You may fire up TweetDeck and watch a twitter chat or use a specific hashtag, a lot. Once you hit this 2nd String role, you've kind of found your niche in twitter. Mine was the #tlap #sstlap chats. I love these chats. I walked away with so many great ideas. I shared some, but got more from them. This stage is still a receiving stage, but it may take away family time, because your favorite chat is on the West Coast and doesn't start until 11:00pm your time. Ask my wife about this one.

Starting QB - You're in the action. You're participating in chats. You're now getting connected with others across the globe. You may even run or moderate a chat. You have formed relationships with people on twitter and may even refer to them as your friends, not just twitter friends. You may have a "following." Those people that retweet every of your tweets. You're scheduling tweets using Buffer or Hootsuite to send out your content at it's highest peaks. You're giving a lot. You're receivers are catching TD's.  This would be the highest point of twitter. Some might say it consumes your life. I never made it here.

Multi-Season Starting QB - You stay strong as a Starting QB for a long time. Those with many followers know that they continue to pour out info to their followers. You've done well. You also notice that you're not as young as you once were.

Traded QB - Hold the phone. You've been traded. You may have found something on the twitters that really changed an idea of your thinking, so you've changed your thinking. Made a huge jump. Got tired of rehashing hashtags and decided to find something else that may feel more meaningful. Maybe a different city might be the best for you. This is where I was at last year around Christmas.

The Mentor QB - The older, almost retired, quarterback who has been around twitter for awhile and is brought in to mentor the younger QB that was just drafted and is now the starting QB. This person has a lot of experience. He has seen things. Maybe he's been traded a couple of times? Maybe he's won a Super Bowl Ring. He knows what it takes to be successful. So they get others to jump on twitter. To help them see the light about a little blue bird. They help those draft picks find their niche. They put them in contact with others who can help develop them. They show them how to correctly keep your eyes up field while in their 5-Step Drop. They help and assist without wanting anything in return.

Hall of Fame QB - This person is leaving the game behind. Hall of Fame QBs hardly ever mention "stats" (followers) in their Hall of Fame Speech. They realize it's about relationships and relationships are more meaningful than 140 characters. People are more real than a screen.  Conversations where people sit down in person and discuss a topic. Not a lot can be discussed in 140 characters at least not anything real meaningful. Things can be taken out of context. Sarcasm might not be able to be "read" between the two lines of a tweet. Real meanings can't be brought about in just 140 characters. Some use twitter to troll instead of using it as a space for civil discourse (see this by Bill Ferriter) and maybe twitter has become the new street corner where people dare not go there alone (see this by William Chamberlain). A Hall of Famer sees these negative things happening and has used his connections on twitter to escape the negativity and then broaden their PLN to one that is more relational. They've probably migrated to a space called Voxer, Skype, or Google Hangouts. They think spaces like this are the best learning that is possible in an online setting because they realized that along the way, they had a bunch of lineman who helped them along the way and now they want to learn the game from them from a different perspective. Maybe this person heads back to their high school stomping grounds to talk to students about real, authentic learning and how to place a value on relationships at a young age instead of seeking popularity, aka followers, in an online world.

I haven't personally went through all the "stages" of twitter, but I've been through a lot of them. Overtime, I've seen my view of twitter shift from something amazing to a spot now where I'm wanting more. That wanting more has driven me to find other ways of authentically connecting with others. I love my Voxer groups that I'm a part of. They challenge me daily. I love the connections that I have made on Twitter, but connections (and the increase in negativity) only go so far.

Connections have to lead to relationships for real learning to occur.

You don't learn a lot from 140 characters, but it gives you enough to want more. That "more" is where real learning begins. Twitter is a way to connect. Take those connections off twitter and find your "more." Move your learning to relational. It's more than connecting. Shoot to be a Hall of Famer and focus on relationships.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

5 Day One Ideas Instead of Going Over the Rules

I know I'm in the middle of a video series, but I just wanted to write tonight. Sometimes it feels good to write a little. 

Also, my first day as a teacher, had a very memorable experience. Check it out HERE

Students don't want to hear you go over your classroom rules on day one. Have them create, make, or design something instead. Make it about the students. They should feel like what they did was worthwhile and make them want to come back. Doing something fun on the first day is good.

Here are 5 things you can do instead.

1. I'll start with what I do. I give them a half sheet of paper. They fold it in half, hot dog style. On one side, they write the name they want to be called (within reason). On the back, they write or draw the most unique thing about them, or a highlight from the summer. On the inside, I have them draw themselves as a superhero, using their super power. We then have a sharing time and the student has 3 options to share from. I imagine that each student will be comfortable sharing one of them. It allows me to mingle with every student why they all are working. I get to know their names during this time and by the end, I know all of their names. Some substitutes - Play-Doh or Legos work well for this, as well. 

2. Put a random object on each desk in your room. Have each student come up with an idea on how that thing could be used in your class. Spatula, Fork, Screwdriver, Basketball, Teddy Bear, Hat, Cup, whatever. Make it random. 

3. Adding a timer to anything makes for time-on-task.  Have them write a story about what they think this class will be like from the perspective of something in the room. Perhaps, something like a desk or the carpet. Give them 3 minutes to pre-write some ideas and 7 minutes to write it. You could also get in groups of 3. First person writes about how they think the beginning of the year will go, 2nd person writes about the end, 3rd person ties it together. Present them together. You could also have groups present each other's. You would combine the groups and they would each teach the other group their song. It could serve as an introduction? 

4. Scavenger Hunt / Amazing Race. Why not teach them about your room, by doing a scavenger hunt? Use QR codes or a Google Form. What is this corner called? Where do you turn in assignments? What is one spot in the room where you shouldn't sit because there is a horrible glare from the window? Those types of things. 

5. If you don't have multiple classes, why not pile all of your stuff and furniture into the middle of the room. Maybe stack it all the way to the ceiling? Have the students put your room together however they want to. It's a great opportunity to talk things through like, "Will this work well here?" "Is this going to make learning easier?" "Is this the best way to arrange this?" "What are some ways you can use this space to enhance learning?" 

I think you have to make it about the students. It has to be their space. Even if you put your room together, it has to feel like a space that is welcoming and that students are valued.

I hope these ideas benefit you, or at the least, make you think about some ideas for starting the school year. 

Share your ideas in the comments.